International

Mexico proposes taxing soda to fight obesity

Mexico is currently the world leader in soda consumption and obesity

Newly produced soft drink bottles come off an assembly line at a bottling plant.
2013 AFP

Any proposal to limit the intake of soda has been controversial since outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed banning large sizes of sugary beverages in New York City last year. But that hasn’t stopped Bloomberg from being associated with such efforts elsewhere.

The Mexican government announced over the weekend a proposal to tax soft drinks in an effort to fight the country’s obesity epidemic. President Enrique Peña Nieto wants Mexicans to pay an extra peso (about 8 U.S. cents) for every liter of sweetened drinks.

The move is among a slew of actions Peña Nieto has taken in recent months to combat Mexico's growing obesity epidemic. Some of the government's initiatives, including a subway advertising campaign in Mexico City, have been partially funded by Bloomberg's personal charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies. The subway ads warn of the dangers of drinking too much soda -- such as developing diabetes.

Mexico has recently surpassed the United States as the nation with the most obesity. Now 32.8 percent of Mexicans are obese, compared to 31.8 percent of people in the U.S., according to a United Nations report.

Mexico also recently edged out the U.S. as the world’s top soda consumer. The average Mexican drinks 163 liters of soda a year, compared with 118 in the U.S.

The country also has the highest prevalence of diabetes among the 34 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with 10.8 percent of the population suffering from the disease.

But just like in the U.S., challenging the soda industry has led to a backlash. The Mexican Association of Soda Makers said the plan would hurt sugar cane growers and disproportionately affect the poor, in a country where 45 percent of 118 million people live in poverty.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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